Ground Zero Church to be Rebuilt: Parish President Shares Story of Perseverance

Litigation over a church crushed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks ended last week when a heated debate between the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and the Port Authority of New York was resolved.

The agreement to rebuild the lower Manhattan place of worship was closely moderated by John Couloucoundis, president of the parish counsel at St. Nicholas who gave The Christian Post exclusive comments on the church community’s reaction to the news, and insight into the decade long proceedings.

Couloucoundis told CP, “The process has been a very long struggle to get where we are today. It takes a lot of perseverance and steadfastness. It was been a big struggle over the past ten years.”

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church at 130 Liberty St used to be steps away from the World Trade Center. According to their website, the entire weight of World Trade Center Tower 2 tower came down on the place of worship, destroying the building and all contents within to shreds.

“It was annihilated. There was nothing left,” said Couloucoundis who describes the destruction as mind-boggling.

According to Business Week, negotiations between the church and the authority broke down in 2009 and the archdiocese sued in February in the federal court in Manhattan, accusing the bistate agency of breaking their promise on an agreement to rebuild.

Couloucoundis told CP that it was always of matter of when, not if. “We had to jump through hoops and now we prevailed -- it was a matter of persevering. It was making sure you don’t give up your patience.”

According to the Huffington Post, negotiations over the rebuilding broke down in 2008 as church officials accused the Port Authority of ignoring the church and the Port Authority accused the church of too-high demands.

According to St. Nicholas’ president, the Port Authority painted the church as being greedy which they found completely puzzling since it was the property belonged to St. Nicholas and Archdiocese was just asking for a land swap.

“It’s historic for the church. We look forward to everything moving forward and not having to deal with the bureaucracy anymore. This is a huge deal,” said an excited Couloucoundis who also told CP that the church community is delighted to the point of disbelief.

Authorities said a 4,100 square-foot church with a nondenominational grief center that will serve, as a “venue for interfaith dialogue” will be constructed.

“In rebuilding a church that was a direct victim of 9/11, our goal always was to offer a place for people to come and find spirituality from all of the events of 9/11. People of all faiths and people of no faith can come,” said Couloucoundis.

While many issues and permits landed in the church’s lap, the agreement, signed Friday by the Port Authority will pay for anything built above ground.

“There will be no payments made by the Port Authority to the church,” a statement said.

Couloucoundis anticipates a two-year wait for the rebuilding to begin. St. Nicholas was founded by Greek immigrants in 1916 and began services at its location on Cedar Street in 1922.